Finally I have time to blog about our trip we made with my dad through the South-West part of SA during Easter break. We drove one way and flew back the way home, while Dirk drove the car back. The poor guy all by himself more than 1500 kilometers, so boring. But he had to stop at 2 places for business...
When I look back to this trip I am still amazed by the nature of SA. You drive for a few hours and the total outlook changes... dramatically. From mountains to flat bushveld, to dessert, rocky coast lines and green pastures, just amazing! My words or pictures cannot do justice!
Since it was the first time for my dad to be in SA I wanted to give him as much as possible the diversity of this vast land. So the first day we drove about 700 km and stayed overnight at a horse stable; Kuilfontein Stables. An authentic farm where they still have cows and horses. However, the horses got new stables and the old ones are formed into bedrooms, a dining room, reception and bar. So cute! And the couple who runs it are the nicest people!
We had a great lamb dinner, since this is the Karoo we were in and they are famous for the good succulent lamb dishes. The girls got up early in the morning to see how the cows were milked. The guys offered JJ and Jezz some fresh milk, but they skipped this warm milk for now ;-) Not knowing that later in the morning this same milk was on the breakfast table! These days kids don't get much interaction with all the farm animals, so this was a nice start of the vacation!
Now up to Amakhala Game reserve to Hlosi game lodge, another 400 km we had to drive to reach our new destination. We are going to hear lions roar!
We are now in the Eastern Cape bush. And on this drive from Colesburg to the Amakhala Game reserve nature is so gorgeous, we feel we are in Texas or in Australia and I expect cowboys and Indians coming by on their horses! Hours of driving and just a few mountains but mostly flat bushveld with aloes all over the place. Different vegetation, I've never seen before. I can't get enough of watching the colors changing because the sun is getting higher and higher, from the morning dew to the dry yellows, the greens from the spiky grasses and the reds in the earth and rocks. Just like a perfect painted picture! The girls by the way don't notice anything, they are sitting on the 3rd row watching a movie on their DVD player....
When we arrive at Hlosi lodge we wait a warm welcome by all the staff. The lodge is situated on a wide open grassland where I see the ostriches roam around the rooms. Each room is a different little lodge with own jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor shower, fireplace, sitting area and bedroom. Very posh and safari like decoration! Super duper nice!! I can stay here for a while :-)
Our first game drive is already at 4pm, before we are treated to a high tea and then off to see the wild animals. Staying at a lodge for a safari in SA is very very nice. You HAVE to experience it once in your life time. It is so magical. To drive in these open jeeps and don't know what to expect. We are looking for the wild animals, while the animals are looking at you from sometimes just a metre away from you and we haven't even notice. They are so well hidden and camouflaged and of course they smell us miles before we have seen them. So you are sitting there and suddenly some of us sees the lions, elephants, cheetahs, zebra's, wildebeests or giraffes and we all take out our camera's and shoot some great shots. It's a very exhilarating and exciting time. You never know what is coming up next. The ranger you drives you around knows so much about nature, birds and the animals around us that we learn so much and appreciate the beauty of the bushveld. These game drives take as long as 3 hours, so by the time we are at the end it is getting dark and the animals are ready for hunting. More action can be seen now, although it is harder to see them, with our lights from the Jeep and a huge flash light we are shining into the bushes in hope to see some action. A different feeling it gives now, and suddenly we hear elephants trumpeting, that means a mother is warning us, we are too close and we better move out of there. Of course they knew we were there, but we hadn't even seen them, they are so big, but so quite. And they are NEXT to us, jeezz.. we got a bit of a scare here!! It is hard to take pictures in the dark, the animals are as grey as the air, so we are hoping we will meet this group of elephants during our next drive in the morning. Back at the lodge we await a delicious 3-course meal. The kids are all sitting on a kiddie table and we adults are together. This time we are sharing the Jeep and the dinner table with a family of 5 from Oxford, UK. The Colebrooks were such a nice family, we had great fun with them!
Being at a safari lodge is always a very intimate gathering. There are only 6 rooms, so you start to know the people and the staff pretty well during those 2 days. It's like a big family sharing a beautiful lodge together! Sharing dinners and breakfast, enjoying high teas, nipping some sherry at the fire places and sharing stories of other adventures and safari's or places to visit in SA. So relaxed, sitting inside while the wild animals like buffalo's are walking around your bedroom or drinking water from the pool where the girls just had swam a few hours before. That is the life at a safari lodge!
The girls are swimming here during the day and at night the buffalo's came to have a drink at this water, while we were sipping some vino at the fire place.
We also met Milo, the meerkat pet, the girls were just totally in love with it and played with him whenever he was around.
Here with their friend Olivia and Milo, the meerkat.
In total you go on 2 game drives, in the early morning and in the early evening, that is the time when the animals are most active. Sleeping animals is no fun to photograph! The hope is always to see the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). The phrase Big Five game was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Well, this time we saw them all but the leopard, we saw some cheetah's which is also hard to see on safari's. These animals don't look us up and stay hidden and are so well camouflaged. Of course we saw more than these 5. We saw zebra's, wildebeest, spring bucks and a lot of other bucks. Beautiful birds, giraffes, ostriches and so many more animals I can't even think of them all. But the experience is just magical, to see all these animals in their natural environment, not bothered by us, just doing their thing and ignoring us completely. That is, if you stay in your Jeep! You set 1 foot out on the ground and suddenly you see these relaxed animals getting alert, body tense, ears sharp and ready to attack! Our ranger showed it to us. We were near these lions, and they were laying there relaxed. We stopped the Jeep maybe 5 meters away from them, they were OK with it, but as soon as the ranger opened the door, put one foot on the ground and the lion stood up and watched us. His body ready and tense... scary!! As soon as the ranger put his foot back into the car, the lion went back to relax and snooze with his lady not paying any attention to us anymore.
Every day you do 2 game drives, one at dawn and the other one at dusk. Nature is at the most beautiful then and all the animals are the most active. You don't want to see sleeping animals during the day, no fun photographing!
In the morning we take a stop for a small breakfast, some tea, rusks and scones. And this is also the moment to use the bush toilet ;-) First the ranger is going to check out a safe bush for you, no snakes or other animals hiding in there. And during the night drive we have sundowners at sunset. Beatiful setting, enjoying some amarula, gin & tonic or some other drinks and snacks while soaking in the beautiful surroundings!
If you ever get a chance to come to South Africa make sure you go on a game drive! It is magical! And do come and visit us if we are still here!!
Thanks to Stephan our ranger, we had some great game viewing at Hlosi Lodge!
Have a lovely day y'all, tomorrow more of the trip.